Last push on big bills

Senate Democrats this week want to pass two controversial bills on the back of defense authorization legislation. But it’s not clear whether they have the votes.

There is a massive lobbying push to round up votes on an immigration reform bill called the DREAM Act and on a measure affecting the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” rule about gay people in the military.

ADVERTISEMENT
Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidDems see surge of new candidates Dems to grind Senate to a halt over ObamaCare repeal fight GOP fires opening attack on Dem reportedly running for Heller's Senate seat MORE (D-Nev.) surprised many on Capitol Hill by scheduling these votes so close to the election.

But before any votes on either gays in the military or immigration, the Senate must pass a motion, requiring 60 votes, to proceed to the defense authorization bill.

The DREAM Act has previously attracted GOP support, though several Republicans indicate they will reject it this week. 

The pressure from immigration-reform advocates will be on Democrats who voted against it in 2007, including Sens. Max BaucusMax BaucusLawmakers: Leave advertising tax break alone GOP: FBI firing won't slow agenda White House tax-reform push is ‘game changer,’ says ex-chairman MORE (Mont.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuMeet Mitch Landrieu, the 2020 dark-horse Dem Medicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Five unanswered questions after Trump's upset victory MORE (La.), Claire McCaskillClaire McCaskillSenators question need for HHS cyber office Overnight Cybersecurity: Obama DHS chief defends Russian hack response | Trump huddles on grid security | Lawmakers warned about cyber threat to election systems We must protect our most vulnerable from financial fraudsters MORE (Mo.), Jon TesterJon TesterOvernight Regulation: Labor groups fear rollback of Obama worker protection rule | Trump regs czar advances in Senate | New FCC enforcement chief Trump's 'regulatory czar' advances in Senate Gianforte causes stir after becoming newest House member MORE (Mont.) and Mark PryorMark PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (Ark.). 

Sen. Robert MenendezRobert MenendezBipartisan group, Netflix actress back bill for American Latino Museum The Mideast-focused Senate letter we need to see Taiwan deserves to participate in United Nations MORE (D-N.J.) last week indicated Democrats are closing in on the necessary votes for the DREAM Act, but getting to 60 will be extremely challenging.

The vote on “Don’t ask, don’t tell” will also be close, with much of the attention now on centrist Sens. Susan CollinsSusan CollinsRocky rollout for Senate healthcare bill Overnight Healthcare: Latest on Senate healthcare bill | Four conservatives say they'll oppose | Obama slams bill | Health groups offer scathing criticism The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (R-Maine) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine).

There is other important legislation to get done this week. While some House Democrats are not thrilled with the long-stalled small-business bill that cleared the Senate last week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has embraced it. That bill will clear the House and soon be signed by the president.

With the House expected to adjourn at the end of next week, lawmakers are scrambling to get bills on the congressional agenda. But many measures are slowly dying or will limp into the lame-duck session with an uncertain future.

Bills on Cuba travel, Internet gambling, stem cells, food safety and child nutrition are on life support, hoping to be revived after the elections.

Their fate is better than others, however. Climate change is dead, as is so-called card-check legislation favored by labor unions. A budget rescissions bill that President Obama called on Congress to pass in May has gone nowhere.

A U.S.-Russia arms treaty, however, has attracted momentum. The START treaty cleared a Senate panel last week, 14-4. Despite needing 67 votes to clear the full chamber, it stands a better chance than most pending bills passing in the lame-duck session.